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Mobile credentials on the rise

Mobile credentials on the rise
Mobile credentials are gaining traction. Enhanced user experience and reduced costs are driving the use of smartphones in place of discrete physical access cards. Security is a primary concern for users when it comes to accessing buildings or making online transactions.
Mobile credentials are gaining traction. Enhanced user experience and reduced costs are driving the use of smartphones in place of discrete physical access cards. Security is a primary concern for users when it comes to accessing buildings or making online transactions.

The proliferation of Bluetooth and NFC-enabled smartphones, and advancement in technologies has been helping to increase the uptake of mobile credentials. With a mobile app, users can turn their mobile phones into digital access cards, keys or wallet without carrying lots of stuff on hand.
Rob Martens,
Futurist and VP,
Strategy and Partnerships,

Lee Odess, COO at UniKey Technologies, said, “Since smartphones have become ubiquitous and continue to see annual climbs in sales, we think that this is where the future is heading. Every day, people leave their homes and do the typical ‘phone, keys, and wallet’ check before walking out the door. These three things have all become essential to our way of living, and mobile credentials are just the beginning to the smartphone holding all of our daily essentials.”

With more flexibility and adaptability than traditional credentials, mobile credentials can enhance user experience and in some way, lower cost of ownership. As such, it has limitless growth potential.

Research firm Gartner predicts a notable increase of adoption of this in physical access control systems (PACS) over the next few years. 20 percent of organizations will use smartphones in place of traditional physical access cards for access to offices and other premises, up from less than 5 percent in 2016. The report said, “Phone-as-atoken authentication methods continue to be the preferred choice in the majority of new and refreshed token deployments as an alternative to traditional one-time password (OTP) hardware tokens.”

Major Applications

Lee Odess, COO, 
UniKey Technologies
The use of mobile credentials can be extended beyond security to non-security applications as well. Leo Zhang, Senior Threat Researcher at Trend Micro, said, “Mobile credentials are so widely used almost everywhere related with ID authentication, such as banking, shopping, booking, renting, boarding and access control.”

Ryan Zlockie, Global VP of Authentication at Entrust Datacard, said, “We see mobile credentials — specifically higher security credentials — being used as a catalyst to accelerate empowering mobile as the primary productivity platform for applications like secure mail, web mobile app access and unifying the experience between workstations and mobile platforms. We are even starting to see an uptick to use a mobile credential for PAC access so there is one trusted credential used by the organization cross use cases. We use the same virtual smart card applet for logical access as we do for PACs which is aligned with FIPS PIV specifications.”

Gaoping Xiao, Director of Sales, APAC at AMAG Technology, said, “More and more people use their smart phones for electronic payment. The other growing area is the security market. Mobile credentials are used as the access cards, replacing physical cards for access control systems.”

The connected car space is also teeming with opportunities for this technology. Gemalto worked with Daimler to incorporate a smartphone-based digital vehicle key for the latter’s Mercedes-Benz E-Class range. Via NFC connectivity, users can lock and unlock the car by placing the smartphone against the door handle and switch on the engine. This mobile application is able to operate even when the battery has been drained, eliminating the need to carry a physical key for good.
Manoj Kumar Rai,
Head of Marketing and Business Development,
Mobile Services and IoT Solutions,
South Asia and Japan,

Manoj Kumar Rai, Head of Marketing and Business Development for Mobile Services and IoT Solutions in South Asia and Japan at Gemalto, indicated, “Mobile credentials can be introduced to car or room-sharing services, allowing vehicles or house owners to remotely share and remove the keys in the future. This ensures that only the authorized persons have possession of the keys, and only for a duration set by the owners.

Major Wireless Connectivity Standards: Pros and Cons

Near field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth are two popular short-range communication technologies for mobile credentials with unique features.

Bluetooth is more common because of the mass adoption of smartphones, and features longer communications range than NFC. “NFC and Bluetooth both have momentum in the marketplace. Limitations for NFC applications are largely dictated by mobile device providers, whereas BLE is ubiquitous,” said Rob Martens, Futurist and VP of Strategy and Partnerships at Allegion.

Melissa Stenger, VP of Product Management and Marketing for ISONAS, said, “NFC may be easier to implement and simpler to control the signal, but the fact that iOS doesn’t allow for full access to NFC drives manufacturers to utilize BLE in order to create a consistent user experience across their app.”
Melissa Stenger,
VP, Product Management and Marketing,

However, since Apple has started to support NFC tag reading late this year on its iPhone 7 and newer models, a significant boost in NFC adoption is anticipated.

Rai expounded on the benefits of NFC, saying, “NFC technology consumes significantly less power than Bluetooth technology. Smartphone users can practically leave their smartphones on for long stretches of time without it affecting the battery much. NFC file-sharing does not require pairing, which makes it faster to connect — about less than one second, compared to the manual setup via Bluetooth, which averages about six seconds. With no pairing, there are also no record of connections, rendering NFC a good choice for anonymous use.”

On the other hand, Zlockie said that Bluetooth offers certain advantages in terms of broad range of mobile device support since not all support NFC and provide SDK access to leverage the phone capabilities in the same way for NFC. “We also see bar codes and QR codes used in place of wireless connectivity, which can be used to authenticate a transaction as well,” added Zlockie.
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